Meal Plan Template

Gosh it’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post – my intentions just don’t meet my realistic time availability sometimes- and it’s really been a while since I’ve shared a meal plan!

So with the New Year, our focus on wellness goals, and all of us needing some ideas for meal planning, here is a new template I’m planning to use to help keep me out of the- I don’t know what to make or what I even want to eat this week- mindset.

A skillet meal is a 5 ingredient, relatively one-pan saute meal. Thinking my chicken sausage, pesto, pasta dish or shrimp, spinach & artichoke dish here.

The staple meal is a family favorite. tacos & spaghetti are our go-tos.

The sheet pan dinner is just that, everything on the sheet pan, especially lots of veggies + lean protein. As pictured above I have a pre-seasoned pork loin + brussels + broccoli.

Something grilled could be turkey burgers, lean sliders, grilled chicken turned into caesar salads or tex mex bowls, or it could be a sirloin steak with sides.

The soup or stew could be something like a chili or pot roast, something maybe in the slow cooker which is perfect for these chillier days. In the summer, I might change that part of the menu to be a lighter dish for the warmer weather.

If you’re deciding to do something similar- consider rearranging the days to fit your schedule. For example, if you need a middle-of-the week relief night, make that your night to go out. If you have a longer day or day that tends to be busier than others, make that the night that you have leftovers.

I may get to the point – or at least try it out- where on Sundays we sort of cook for most of the week. Thinking like make some type of soup or stew in the slow cooker, meanwhile put the sheet pan dinner together, and have the hubs grill some lean protein. So it’s sticking to the template but 3 of the meals are made in one day. We have a neighbor who shared this with us and while I’m not traditionally a fan of “meal prepping” and devoting hours and hours on Sunday Funday, it might be worth trying. They call it “movie day” where the kids pick out a movie and the adults cook together. I think if both of us do it together rather than one person taking the responsibility, it may be more feasible. That leaves only the skillet + staple meal to cook during the week and both of those are designed to be 20-30 minute one-pan type dishes.

Happy meal planning!



Dark Chocolate Peppermint Truffles

For holiday gift giving or giving yourself a more healthful treat this time of year, these dark chocolate peppermint truffles provide holiday flavor with rich antioxidants, low added sugar plus filling fiber + fats.

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Truffles

Makes ~24 servings

2 cups cocoa powder, sifted

1/2 cup avocado oil

1/2 cup honey or Madhava Agave 5 liquid sweetener

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

drop of peppermint oil (optional)

pinch (1/16 teaspoon) sea salt

2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut flakes


In a food processor, add the cocoa powder, avocado oil, sweetener, vanilla, sea salt and peppermint. Blend until well mixed. Add the coconut flakes and pulse to combine everything.

Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Using a tablespoon or cookie scoop, spoon the chilled truffle mixture and shape into a ball in your hand. Roll into shredded coconut & chopped peppermint to garnish. Store in an airtight container in the fridge until needed.

Per serving: 140 calories, 11 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 15 milligrams sodium, 10 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 6 grams sugar, 2 grams protein

Halloween Favorites

Meal planning can help keep your week running smoothly, and since it’s Halloween this week, here are some of my favorite recipes that can be made ahead of time and also make great leftovers!


Butternut Squash Soup

I love this soup not only because it is festive, but also because nutritionally-speaking, it incorporates veggies and pairs so nicely with a grilled cheese or quesadilla making it a family-friendly meal- at least in our household.



Beer braised Pot Roast

A family favorite that will last you well even throughout the winter. Made from an eye of round for a heart-healthier classic.



Classic Chili

Nothing fancy here, just a blend of homemade spices with my favorite bean combos! Versatile enough to make vegetarian or vegan if you’d like.



Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Tenderloin

Pulled pork doesn’t have to be unhealthy, especially when you use a lean pork tenderloin.



Slow Cooker Steak Fajitas

Any time you’re craving a favorite dish you’d normally order out, try to pick a simple way to incorporate it at home. Slow cooker or one-pan sautes are often on my go-to list.



Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

For those that need other ways to prepare chicken because there are infinite ways to cook chicken.


I hope everyone has a fun, safe, & memorable trick or treating!

Happy Halloween!



Halloween Strategies {Fox 8 segment, recipes, & tips + tricks}

Halloween is next week! Eek!

If you’re planning your menu & plans out this weekend, here’s a recap of my segment with Fox 8 along with the recipes and tips! More tricks & recs are here than on air because there’s only so much you can talk about in 3 minutes =)

Nutritious snack: homemade popcorn

Heat a large skillet to medium heat. Add 1-2 tablespoons oil of choice, I used avocado oil since it can take higher heats and can help to prevent burning – speaking from experience here…

Add one popcorn kernel to the heated oil. When it pops, the oil is ready. Add 1/4-1/2 cup kernels {depending on how much oil used above and how much you want to make}. Cover and agitate the skillet while the kernels are heating and popping.

Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice for that fall festive flavor!

  • Crunchy, snack-like option that’s a good fiber source (whole grain)
  • you control the ingredients when making it at home
    • air popped or type & amount of oil used, amount of salt- if any
  • Allergy friendly {gluten free, nut free,…}


Homemade dinner: pot roast

  • Fill up and satisfy with a nutritious dinner (lean protein, fiber + veggie-rich) before heading out
    • Lower saturated fat {better for cardiovascular health} protein- eye of round
    • Veggie loaded – carrots, tomato paste, onions, garlic
    • Salt mindful – you control how much, again if any, is used
  • can be made ahead of time (i.e. Sunday dinner & planned for leftovers for Halloween night)
  • can be done all in the slow cooker if desired
  • pair with stone ground (whole grain) grits
    • add in cauliflower for those with selective taste buds {i.e. picky kids} – same color, yet flavor from grits can mask the veggie flavor
  • family friendly {easy, tastes good, but also good for you} + gluten free
  • can be made vegetarian by replacing the meat with black beans + lentils and using vegetable bases + stocks

Tips + Tricks for Trick or Treats

mix of tricks AND treats {including more-nutritious options to help add variety + options}

  • ** bubbles, stickers, stamps, snap bracelets, glow sticks, yoyos, etc…  {check party-favor sections} **

  • individually wrapped {** are allergy friendly **}
    • **popcorn single serve bags**
    • ** Simply Balanced all fruit ‘snacks’ – twists, bars, bites**
    • bars
      • Rx bar kids + larabars – no added sugars
      • KIND kids- lower sugar – teaspoon =5 grams added sugar
      • Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars – also has brownie version- whole grains

For more tips & tricks, my article this month in Health and Fitness magazine {link included} has some strategies about what to do after Halloween with all the candy.



Happy Trick or Treating!



Pesto Chicken Sausage Saute

I find great value in one-pan dinners that can be made easily and quickly!

If it’s easy, the burden can be taken off of you to feel you are the only one preparing dinner for the family.

If it’s a fast dish, it can fit better into our busy lives!

Of course, it has to be tasty as well! And in my belief, we can always make it nutritious- there may need to be some twisting, but it can be done!

This recipe adds in fiber with whole grains (if desired) along with vitamin + mineral-rich veggies, and lower-saturated fat protein from the chicken sausage.

Pesto Chicken Sausage Saute

serves: 4


4 chicken sausages, no nitrates or nitrites added, sliced on a diagonal

1 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 lemon, juiced

pinch of kosher or sea salt

freshly cracked pepper

1/2 cup unsalted chicken stock

1 cup frozen chopped spinach

1 cup jarred marinated artichokes

2 cups extra veggie of choice

3 tbsp pesto

2 cups cooked whole grain pasta (gluten free brown rice pasta or 100% whole wheat)


In a cast iron skillet heated to medium high heat, add the sliced chicken sausages and warm through until there is nice browning, tossing occasionally to add color on both sides (about 5 minutes total). Set aside.

In the same skillet, add the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Saute to cook the garlic a bit, stirring as needed to prevent it from burning. Add the chicken stock and let it come to a light simmer. Add the veggies (spinach, artichoke + extra veggies). Cover and let the veggie warm and soften (about 10 minutes). Add the pesto and coat the veggies.

Add the chicken sausage and pasta. Toss everything to combine. Serve warm & enjoy!

For the extra veggies, we normally choose to have sugar snap peas and we toss in the whole bag. I went to two different stores and couldn’t not find them this week, so we used what we had on hand – which was leftover roasted brussels sprouts and some broccoli that I prepped as an “extra” veggie for any meal earlier in the week.

If you prefer a vegetable in place of (or in addition to) the pasta, zucchini noodles would make a great option!

Extra protein can be added in to help provide fullness, energy, and satisfaction with the meal. The chicken sausage does contain some sodium, so something like white beans, tofu, skinless chicken would all be good compliments here.

I hope you incorporate this into your recipe box of easy, fast, and tasty family-friendly meals. For the kids, you may have to separate the components out for them. They may not eat every item, and that’s okay. The longterm goal though is for everyone to eat the same meal that is offered- it may be slightly tailored or includes an additional item on their plate their are comfortable with, but we’re not a restaurant making multiple dinners to accommodate everyone individually.




Cajun Turkey Burger

For burger lovers: just one more delicious recipe to add to your collection.


Cajun Turkey Burger

Makes: 6


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 celery stalk, diced

1/2 onion, diced

1 bell pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2  lb ground turkey breast

1/4 cup mayo

1/4 cup plain Greek Yogurt

1/4 cup old fashioned oats

couple heavy dashes Worchestershire

couple dashes Tabasco Chipotle hot sauce

1/2 teaspoon blackening seasoning, divided


In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the celery, onion, peppers, and garlic. Saute until soft (about 5 minutes).

In a large mixing bowl, combine the turkey with sauteed veggies. Add the mayo, greek yogurt, oats (blended into a flour or left whole), Worchestershire and hot sauce. Mix well to combine everything.

Preheat the grill or a grill pan.

Using an ice cream scoop, portion each burger in between two pieces of parchment paper to form the burger patty. Set aside and repeat with the remaining meat mixture until 6 patties are formed. Sprinkle each patty on both sides with blackening seasoning.

Cook each patty on the preheat grill and cook on each side for about 5-7 minutes.


Toppings & sides:

I prefer to top my burger with diced or mashed avocado. But a thin slice of cheese may suit others. I also go bunless and serve over a bed of greens. If you prefer some bread, I really like Dave’s Killer Bread – Thin sliced or any brand of 100% whole grain or whole wheat sandwich thins, rounds or flats. Thomas 100% whole wheat English muffins or Nature’s Own 100% whole wheat buns would also be good, wholesome, fiber-rich options.

We often also toss some sliced onions & mushrooms in a touch of oil and grilled them along with the burgers as another topping. And when I say we, I mean my hubby. He’s the grill master.

For sides, if you choose bread for your burger, you might double up on non-starchy veggies (like my roasted brussel sprouts pictured). But if you skip the bread like I often do, then some baked sweet potato would be a nutrient-rich yet traditional side option but it’s not a much. Having a double portion of veggies rather than a serving of starch or carb is completely optional. You’ll get the nutrients, energy, and satisfaction you need and want from the protein, fiber, and plant-based fat from avocado.



Berry Chia Yogurt Pancakes

I made these for my family while we were home over the 4th of July and they were a hit! I’ve already been requested to make them for our upcoming beach trip! Needless to say, they are worthy of repeat!

Nutritious and delicious pancakes- that’s right, you can eat pancakes and feel good about them!


Berry Chia Yogurt Pancakes

Makes about 15 pancakes



2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or white whole wheat flour)

1/4 cup chia seeds

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of kosher salt

1 cup plain Greek yogurt (such as Fage 2%)

2  cups milk of choice (such as Fairlife or an unsweetened vanilla nut milk)

2 eggs

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce with cherries or mixed berries

2 lemons, zested & juiced

2 tablespoons Madhava Agave 5

1 teaspoon vanilla extract



In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour through salt). In a large mixing bowl, combine the wet ingredients (yogurt through vanilla). Combine the dry & wet ingredients and let sit for about 5-10 minutes.

Preheat a flat-iron skillet or non-stick pan to medium heat. Spray with non-stick spray or rub on some good ol’ butter (I’m diggin’ Land O’ Lakes Butter with olive oil and sea salt right now).

Using 1/4 cup measure, portion out some of the batter onto the warmed skillet. Flip over when the under side starts to brown (you’ll know as the edges start will to form and plump up and there will be bubbles popping up on the top side, indicating the bottom is toasted and the batter is becoming warmed through). Cook on the second side until it is browned as well, about 2 minutes.

Repeat the spraying/butter coating step as needed while continuing to cook each pancake until the batter is gone.

For a syrup, I combine a splash of water in a glass jar with a healthy dollop of an all fruit preserve or jam such as Polaner, Smucker’s Simply Fruit, or St. Dalfour. I splash in some Madhava Agave 5 – my liquid sweetener of choice that doubles as the syrup here. Warm it for about 30 seconds, stir, and drizzle over your cakes!